Emergency services are available for citizens to get help when it is needed; whether that be from the police, the fire department, or the paramedics. From the time that we are children, we are taught that if there is a serious emergency, call 9-1-1. It is part common knowledge and practice. North Carolina criminal law makes it against the law to prevent someone from calling 9-1-1. This crime is known as interfering with emergency communication, and is commonly charged during domestic disputes. It often comes along with additional charges, such assault and/or communicating threats.
Interfering with emergency communication
In order for the state to find a defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt (which is typically the standard of proof with criminal law) it must prove that the accused:
- Intentionally interfered with an emergency communication,
- Knowing that the communication is an emergency communication, and
- The accused was not the person making an emergency communication himself
This information is stated in North Carolina General Statute 14-286.2.
Explanation of the Elements
- The term “emergency communication” includes communication to law enforcement, emergency personnel, or individuals when that communication is by a personal that believes or has reason to believe that they are in imminent danger of bodily injury, or that their property is in imminent danger of being damaged or stolen.
- The term “intentional interference” can mean forcefully taking someone’s phone, hiding that person’s phone, or otherwise making it unavailable. It can also include any other method that is done to prevent the persons seeking assistance to not able to do that.
North Carolina criminal law provides that this crime is punished as a Class A1 misdemeanor which is the highest level of misdemeanor in the state and follows the North Carolina misdemeanor sentencing guidelines.
One of the most common scenarios we see when we see a client facing this charge is the following: a couple gets into an argument and one person tries to call the police. However, that person’s partner stops them. Often, at that point, the person does not realize that they are committing a relatively serious crime. In fact, the punishment for this crime can oftentimes be more severe than the punishment that the person would have faced for the underlying crime that the “victim” was attempting to report. An example of this is the crime of simple assault. Simple assault is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is two levels lower than interfering with emergency communication.
Criminal law can be complicated and confusing. It often requires an expert, even if the facts seem simple. If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina or South Carolina in the Charlotte area, Gilles Law may be able to help you. Contact us, for any of your criminal law needs.